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Preakness Stakes predictions and picks for Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. Horse racing handicapper Matthew DeSantis gives us a breakdown for Saturday's five graded stakes races at Pimlico, including his Preakness Stakes predictions and picks.
ANALYSIS

2022 Preakness Stakes Predictions: Free Picks For the Second Jewel of the Triple Crown

Saturday, May 21 is the 147th edition of the Preakness Stakes. While the Kentucky Derby winner, Rich Strike, may be skipping the race, there is still plenty of firepower to make the second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown an intriguing and exciting race. However, the Preakness isn't the only big race taking place at Pimlico Race Course this Saturday. Get Matthew's picks and analysis for all five graded stakes races, including the Grade I Preakness Stakes.

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2022 Preakness Stakes Predictions

Race 4

  • Distance: 6 furlongs
  • Name: Maryland Sprint Stakes - Grade III
  • Age: 3-years-old and up
  • Surface: Dirt

Lets start the day off with what should be thrilling 6 furlong sprint where there will be a heavily contested early pace between Jaxon Traveller (3-1), Mr Phil (3-1), and War Tocsin (15-1). All three like to get to the lead, but none of them need the lead to win so while it might be crowded up front, I would not expect a blistering pace.

If Jaxon Traveler can be strategic with his early speed and sit just off the pace, then the race may set up nicely for him. However, he strikes me as a little bit of a hanger. Since winning the Grade III Chick Lang during this same weekend last year, he has finished second in 50% of his ten races while only winning once.

Meanwhile, Mr. Phil is trending the other direction having won his last two races and appears to be having a bit of a renaissance since moving to the barn of Rob Atras. He beat Jaxon Traveler last time out, but this is a bigger spot with a better overall field. War Tocsin is a hard-knocking horse who turned in a big performance in February at a stakes races, but that appears to be his high water mark as he regressed back to the mean in his last effort.

Sitting right behind those three will be morningline favorite, Disco Pharaoh (5-2), who is coming off a stakes victory at Laurel Park (MD) last month after breaking his maiden by 19 lengths in the previous race. The gelded progeny of Triple Crown winner, America Pharaoh, feels like he is finally hitting his groove and he has Jevian Toledo riding him. Toledo may not be a household name, but he is one of the top jockeys in the Mid-Atlantic and while the Pimlico meet is still early, he's winning an eye-popping 67% of his mounts. His speed figures keep improving and it seems logical to expect another progression, which would land him in the winner's circle.

In terms of value, I would stay away from Sir Alfred James (6-1) who has been running a grueling sprint schedule this spring as this will be his 10th race already in 2022. Full Authority (5-1) has shown some speed in recent races and probably represents the best value to his the board, but this is a salty field. If he can avoid pushing the pace too much in the early going and sit just behind the three leaders, he could carve out a nice trip to hit the board.

Race 4 Picks

  • Win: Disco Pharaoh (5-2)
  • Place: Mr Phil (3-1)
  • Show: Full Authority (5-1)

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Race 5

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: Gallorette Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 3-years-old and up fillies & mares
  • Surface: Turf

Some impressive turf horses are running in this edition of the Gallorette. There is little doubt that trainer Chad Brown will have his filly Technical Analysis on the lead as she possesses the best early speed in the field. The Pimlico turf course tends to favor early speed due to the track configuration and she should not be pressed. Allowing her to set reasonable fractions is sure-fire way to let her wire the field, but there are some intriguing horses (and prices) that will come running at her late.

The best of that group is Crystal Cliffs (2-1) and while her trainer, Graham Motion, is on absolute fire right now having won three of his four entries at Pimlico thus far and having won the Grade I Man O' War Stakes last weekend on the turf at Belmont, I'm not sure I like her in this spot. While she is capable of sitting mid-pack, in her last two races she has taken on the role of a deep closer, which does not set up well for her if there is minimal pace up front.

Therefore, I'm looking at the duo of Scarabea (6-1) and In a Hurry (5-1). In a Hurry should be close to the lead and therefore will not have as much ground to make up late. This Shug McGaughey runner has been running against solid graded stakes competition recently and save her performance at the Grade III Pegasus World Cup Filly and Mare Turf Invitational, she's acquitted herself well against a strong group of turf horses like Sweet Melania and Shifty She. Additionally, she's four for seven hitting the board at this distance, including once at Pimlico. I like the trip she should have here and having Joel Rosario on the turf is never a bad thing.

Scarabea will come from a little further back, but she's been running against MUCH better recently having taken on the monsters of Shantisara and Regal Glory who are two of the best in the division. Scarabea is an intriguing horse because I'm not entirely sure about her best distance. She can go 12 furlongs but she's had success at 9.5 furlongs as well. The class and distance cutback make her a logical choice for me to use underneath.

Race 5 Picks

  • Win: Technical Analysis (7-5)
  • Place: Scarabea (6-1)
  • Show: In a Hurry (5-1)

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Race 8

  • Distance: 1 1/16 miles
  • Name: Dinner Party Stakes - Grade II
  • Age: 3-years-old and up
  • Surface: Turf

The race shape of the Gallorette is the complete opposite of the Maryland Sprint in that not one horse in this field wants the lead. In turf racing, you typically need at least one horse in the field to be a "rabbit" or set a pace and get loose on the lead in order to give the rest of the field something to run into. However, even the most forwardly-placed horses in this field typically sit third or fourth during the early going.

As a result, I am fading morning line favorite Set Piece (8-5) because he is a classic turf horse that makes a huge run late, but his turn of foot will be negated by the complete lack of pace in this contest. Therefore, I'm looking at the horses that will be on the lead early as the most likely to be hanging around late since they will set slow fractions and have plenty left to kick for home themselves.

The most logical choice is Atone (5-2) who has been outrunning his double-digit odds the last three races against top caliber competition. He is coming off consecutive fourth-place finished in Grade I races in which his margin of defeat was a combined two lengths. Ideally, he would sit second or third before making his move late. The other two front-running horses I like are Tango Tango Tango (10-1) and Beacon Hill (9-2). Both are going to be in the top three early with Atone and all have shown the ability to win when close to the lead on the turf. Beacon Hill is running in his second race back from a layoff and ran a career-best speed figure last time out. Tango Tango Tango did the same and has Tyler Gaffalione aboard who helped spring an upset on the turf two weeks ago during the Kentucky Derby card with Santin. Similar to that race where Gaffalione kept Santin in a stalking position, he should have Tango Tango Tango positioned in almost the same spot.

Race 8 Picks

  • Win: Atone (5-2)
  • Place: Tango Tango Tango (10-1)
  • Show: Beacon Hill (9-2)

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Race 9

  • Distance: 6 furlongs
  • Name: Chick Lang Stakes - Grade III
  • Age: 3-years-old
  • Surface: Dirt

The Chick Lang Stakes might be my favorite race on this card outside of the Preakness because of the way the race shapes up. Cogburn (5-2) is going to have to flash early speed due to breaking from the inside rail, which will pit him against the early speed of Old Homestead (2-1). I really like Old Homestead as he was demolishing competition at Delta Downs before going to Keeneland in April. He didn't take much action and was underestimated and then promptly wired the field in the Lafayette Stakes. Despite his humble beginnings at a secondary track, he may just be a freak. However, he's going to face some early speed and there is the possibility that he is vulnerable.

Due to the potential speed duel, I am looking at two horses that will sit just behind that speed and could make a push late. Whelen Springs (4-1) nabbed Cogburn at the wire in their last race and feels like a logical choice here. He likes to sit just off the pace and has used that tact with great success in his last three races, which have all been victories. Two of those were stakes races at Oaklawn Park and his speed figures have kept improving each time out. The other horses to look for is Little Vic (6-1) who is breaking from the far outside. Little Vic can, at times, want to go to the lead, but has shown the ability to sit off. If he can position himself just off Cogburn and Old Homestead, I really like his chances to add value. His only two bad performances have been over a mile while winning two of his three career sprint races. This will be the best class of sprinter he has faced, but I like his chances of making an impression.

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Race 9 Picks

  • Win: Whelen Springs (4-1)
  • Place: Old Homestead (2-1)
  • Show: Little Vic (6-1)

Race 13 Prediction (The Preakness Stakes)

  • Distance: 1 3/16 miles
  • Name: Preakness Stakes - Grade I
  • Age: 3-years-old
  • Surface: Dirt

The second jewel of the Triple Crown may have lost its luster in the eyes of some when Kentucky Derby champion Rich Strike opted to skip the race in favor of prepping for the Belmont, but I still find this to be an intriguing field. Let's start by talking about the pace and Early Voting (7-2). The Chad Brown-trained colt was removed from Kentucky Derby consideration to target this race instead.

His last effort was a second place finish at the Grade I Wood Memorial where he was beat at the wire by the late-charging Mo Donegal. Early Voting represents the best early speed in the race and he definitely has the ability to wire the field if he has his way up front. However, he seems to be a horse that gets lost on the lead a little bit and loses concentration when he does not see other horses to run against. His trainer Chad Brown has indicated that the horse may benefit from sitting just off another horse.

Enter Fenwick (30-1) and Armagnac (12-1). They should not be used in your wagers, but they represent the other early speed contenders and will have an impact on the way the race plays out. Neither has the pure gate speed of Early Voting, but Fenwick and Armagnac only have one way to win, which is to wire the field.

Therefore, their jockeys are going to be aggressive and you should watch carefully as they enter the first turn whether Jose Ortiz, aboard Early Voting, lets one of them run to the front and sits just off of them or whether he takes the lead for himself. No matter what happens, the early fractions will not be nearly as aggressive as they were at the Preakness, but if Early Voting is pressured or does not take to sitting off the pace, then his chances of winning are all but gone.

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The beauty of morning line favorite Epicenter (6-5) is that it doesn't really matter what race shape happens in front of him. He's just better than these other horses and is my pick to win. He will sit off the early speed of the three horses already mentioned and will have a similar trip to what he did in the Louisiana Derby where he bided his time before turning for home and blowing away the field. He simply ran too good to lose two weeks ago at Churchill Downs and that was a gut-wrenching a way to lose the Kentucky Derby for his trainer Steve Asmussen. However, the horse seems to have bounced back beautifully and has such a solid foundation that I am not concerned about the quick turnaround.

Underneath Epicenter is where things get interesting though. Two weeks ago, I made a strong case for Simplification to run second in the Kentucky Derby and he ended up running fourth. He came from way off the pace that day, which was to his benefit, but this time around, he will have a different trip. He is breaking from the #1 post position, which has produced three of the last six winners of the race: Rombauer (2021), War of Will (2019), and American Pharaoh (2015). He picks up jockey John Velazquez who will use his early tactical speed to secure a mid-pack trip similar to Epicenter. Like Epicenter, Simplification is a throwback horse who just runs every month and turns in an honest effort every time. Coming back on two weeks rest is not an issue.

There are a few other intriguing runners coming off two weeks rest, perhaps none more so than the filly, Secret Oath (9-2). She beat the deepest crop of fillies we have seen in recent years at the Kentucky Oaks with ease and the fact she angled out so wide while running 9 furlongs suggests that she will not have any issues with 9.5 furlongs. Her devastating kick will absolutely track down and pass a lot of horses in the field, but I am worried that she may not quite have the class against the best this field has to offer. The last time she went up against boys in the Arkansas Derby she had a troubled trip but was not able to track down Cyberknife who would probably be the fifth pick in this field. She will have the fans of Pimlico rooting for her, but I am not quite sure she can pull off win for the fillies like Rachel Alexandra (2009) or Swiss Skydiver (2020).

The two most intriguing long shots are Creative Minister (10-1) and Skippylongstocking (20-1). Creative Minister's owners actually paid $150,000 to enter this horse in the field as a supplement entry since he didn't qualify. He has only run three career races, but has improved by leaps and bounds in that time. His last effort came on the Kentucky Derby undercard where he circled the field and pulled away under a hand ride. The quick turnaround might be a question mark but his owners have already nominated him for the Belmont Stakes, so they have big plans for this colt. He feels like the "wise guy" horse and will get bet down, but he fits the profile of horses I like to bet, which is young with improving speed figures and taking a step up in class. He's a serious contender.

On the other hand, Skippylongstocking is a bit of a hard-knocking 3-year-old who has already raced nine times. He seems to relish distance as his two best efforts have come in his last two races where he has been stretched out over a mile. He finished third at the Grade I Wood Memorial behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting, but he was making up ground. His sire, Exaggerator, won the Preakness, so you know he has the pedigree. If there is a contested pace up front between Early Voting, Fenwick, and Armagnac, then things could potentially open up for Skippy to pick up the pieces late and hit the board.

Ultimately, I think this race sets up best for the two most seasoned colts in Epicenter and Simplification. They will get the right type of trip and always turn in a strong effort. Epicenter has just a bit more class and will get the win and then head to the Belmont for a rematch with Rich Strike.

Race 13 Picks (The Preakness Stakes)

  • Win: Epicenter (6-5)
  • Place: Simplification (6-1)
  • Show: Creative Minister (10-1)

Article Author

Horse Racing

Matthew DeSantis is a horse racing handicapper with a fondness for lightly raced horses with improving speed figures. You can find him at the track playing surface changes and second off the layoff.

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